Yesterday I worked through a little boredom, looking at how often teams miss the playoffs after starting out under .500 through November 18, yesterday’s date.
The result was higher than I thought, with 76.7 percent finishing in the lottery since 2003. I decided to expand on that statistic by looking at the rest of the months of the season and how often teams can overcome not just a sluggish start but an extra underwhelming month or two or four. Here are the results while skipping the lockout-shortened 2012 season, though I moved the day from December/January/February/March 18 to 19 just to keep up with the current date thing. I don’t know. I’m weird:
Under .500 through December 19: 28 teams out of a possible 143 still made the playoffs (19.6 percent).
Under .500 through January 19: 25/117 (21.4 percent).
Under.500 through February 19: 21/125 (16.8 percent).
Under .500 through March 19: 14/140 (10 percent).
As you can see, the likelihood declines as the season enters the dog days of basketball, and even further after the trade deadline. The percentages are a little misleading though when, since 2003, the Eastern Conference has had nine teams make the playoffs with a record under .500. We’ll more than likely see a couple teams do that again this year. Finish with less than 41 wins in the West though and you’re toast.
No more than five teams under .500 in any month have gone on to make the playoffs. For March 19, it shrunk to three teams. That could change this year, though we’re still four months away from seeing if that holds up.
Four months away still! This season is going to last forever.